PART 3: Allowing Creativity
After so many chapters outlining problems—illusions, delusions, myths, ways in which WCM falls short (especially for performers) of what it’s imagined to be—I hope it may come as a relief to the reader (it certainly does to the writer) to start to look at solutions.
There are a few things to say first of all about creativity, about how it’s possible to perform canonical scores differently, and about the criteria we might use to assess the results. But then we’ll move on to a series of chapters showing examples. These are made by a variety of performers, each taking a different approach and with different motivations and aims. Their purpose is to show how much more might be possible, and how each musician can take scores in new and genuinely individual directions. In other words, how they can practise the performing of WCM as it claims to be practised but so rarely is.
18.1 Introduction after Juniper Hill
Parts 1 and 2 have argued that there could and should be much more creativity in WCM performance, and Part 2 has shown why and how it is prevented. But what do we mean by creativity? Isn’t it all relative? Many performers believe themselves to be highly creative, and, in the very narrow space allowed to them, indeed they are. It’ll be clear by now that by ‘creative’ I mean much more. Perhaps it’s best defined in Juniper Hill’s book, Becoming Creative (2018). She proposes six ingredients: ‘(1) generativity, (2) agency, (3) interaction, (4) nonconformity, (5) recycling, and (6) flow’, where generativity is the ability to make something, agency the sense that one has the authority to do so, interaction the ability to work with others and others’ material, nonconformity the freedom to differ, recycling the new use of existing ideas, and flow the ability to produce persuasive and engaging continuity (Hill 2018, 4–9). For Hill, ‘realizing pre-existing works should only be considered creative when the process also involves other components of creativity’ (Hill 2018, 4), although not all are required all the time. Hill warns (12) that ‘it is the component of nonconformity that threatens to make creativity socially undesirable. Powerful social mechanisms encourage conformity and work as adverse motivators against individuals’ intrinsic desire to be creative.’ And thus (13) self-esteem and courage are vital for creativity to be fostered in WCM. Skills needed to enable creativity are instrumental or vocal technique (of course), sufficient aural skills to turn something into something that sounds; memory is used to call up things done before (by oneself or others), practical knowledge of musical syntax to make material that flows well; real-time decision-making is also essential (there’s a limit to how long one can doodle wondering where to go next); and finally, Hill suggests, self-assessment allows one to refine and improve (Hill 2018, 15–16). Listed like this, the requirements may seem daunting, but in fact many are in use already to a smaller degree in normative performance. What creativity requires is simply that one takes (and feels empowered to take) them further.
This is not to say that classically trained musicians face no initial difficulties when asked to be creative (Hill 2018, 31–2): they certainly do, for noticeable creativity is specifically trained out of them in early years. But it can be let back in and developed, and with it comes renewed delight in making music. It should never have been discouraged in the first place, needless to say.
Continue to 18.2 ‘Comparison with theatre’